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Although Ilsa may not actually realize it at first, both she and Liesel have experienced great losses in their lives: i.e., Ilsa's son, and Liesel's brother. Ilsa is an educated woman with her own library, and she might see a part of herself in Liesel's precocity and love of reading. Ilsa has been tormented by her son's death for over two decades, and she urges Liesel at the end of the novel not to let sorrow consume her life.